Dublin hotels recover from pandemic with new owners and fine restoration

As everywhere in Europe, the economic slump of 2008 has damaged tourism and business travel in Dublin, so much so that there has been an upheaval in the hotel industry, with the inevitable change of hands. The Four Seasons has become an Intercontinental; Bono and Edge still own the building that houses the Clarence Hotel in Temple Bar, but it is now part of Press Up Entertainment’s portfolio. The Marker Hotel in Docklands has been purchased by Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas owned by German property company Deka Immobilien; and Marriott reopened the Shelburne after 18 months of renovations, a year before the crisis hit. Now, with Ireland’s economy back on track and the return of post-pandemic tourism, all hotels have been refurbished and the best ones are as modern as any in Europe, but with a good degree of Gaelic history.

On my previous visit to Dublin in 2019, I was so happy to stay at the centrally located boutique Brooks Hotel on Drury Street, so I stayed there this spring. And nothing could have put me more at ease than being greeted by fearsome concierge Conor O’Connell, who always looks like a more upbeat version of Samuel Beckett and never forgets a customer, especially since eight out of ten hotel guests are regulars. In his neatly pressed blue suit and gray waistcoat, club tie and gold Les Clef d’Or pins, he always seems like the first person you see each morning and the guy who asks you how your night was. He knows all the back streets of Dublin and has a book stuffed with the phone numbers of every restaurant manager, museum manager, haberdasher, street guide and taxi driver by name. Whatever the need for a reservation, Conor will arrange it at any time, and his wink Irish spirit is that of a man who puts everyone at ease from the moment he arrives.

Opened in 1996, the Brooks Hotel now has 100 rooms, a bright breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant named Francesca’s under chef Patrick McLarnon, offering modern Irish cuisine including black pudding with a poached egg, East Coast chowder and onion-stuffed pork tenderloin. (Ask for her recipe for Irish soda bread.)

Modern, well-appointed rooms have well-lit baths. As stated, it could hardly be better located, a short walk to Grafton Street, Nassau Street and Trinity College. And there is a parking lot just across the street.

At the moment, the hotel is offering a generous one-night stay (Classic Queen Room) with a two-course meal and bottle of house wine and complimentary breakfast starting at $410. The hotel offers a “best rate guarantee” without the need to search better on the web, so it is wise to book directly.

New to me was the 168 rooms Westbury, one of the world’s finest hotels from the Irish-owned Doyle Collection, is now one of the finest hotels in the city and ranks among Dublin’s most prestigious hotels along with The Shelburne and The Merrion. Up a grand staircase as you enter, there’s a stunning collection of art displayed in the second-floor gallery overlooking Rue Balfe, and its seasonal flowers add rich color to an already glittering room, flanked by the bar on The city’s most delightful, The Sidecar, overseen by mixologist and sommelier Michael O’Shea, which regularly hosts personalized whiskey tastings.

Enjoying a very good free breakfast is a key way to ignore jet lag when you arrive in the morning, with bright sunshine (if there is any) pouring through the tall gallery windows onto plush loveseats and armchairs under coffered ceilings. It’s also a great afternoon tea spot in town.

Rooms at the Westbury are spacious, color tones are muted, and the bathroom is considerably larger than many other luxury hotels, closer to a California style, with an excellent glass shower and large vanity. Rooms currently start at around $520. There is a fitness center, on-site parking, and a business center. Downstairs is the bustling Brasserie Balfe with wicker chairs and marble tables, while upstairs is a very good restaurant, WILDE, which I will talk about shortly when I report on the Dublin restaurant scene.

Although described as a boutique hotel, The Hotel Fitzwilliam, located near Grafton Street opposite St. Stephen’s Green, offers quick access for business travellers. The quieter rooms overlook the garden now in full bloom, while others have four-poster beds. All rooms are in bright colors, with varying hues of purple and purple. Currently, there is a Spring Escape package for around $320, with free full breakfast and free parking. And if you’re feeling fancy, the 2,000-square-foot Presidential Suite, complete with study bedroom, small grand piano, and free champagne should be just the ticket.

The award-winning restaurant here, Glovers Alley, will be the subject of my next roundup of the best restaurants in Dublin.

About Michael B. Billingsley

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